Pedestrian Density and Focal Length

When we're reading the stories of street photographers, we inevitably get to the part where they talk about their favourite focal length of lens for their photography. I get that. Everyone has their favourites based the way the lens lets them see the world.

I want to chuck another consideration into the mix - pedestrian density. It isn't a problem in London, Tokyo, or New York, but what about Hagersville, Caledonia and Dunnville? I can walk down the main street of a small Ontario town and be the only person on it.
Street Photography - empty street


So imagine me out in small town Ontario with a 28mm wide angle. There's a person across the street doing something interesting. I get a grip on the camera, run across the street, dodge the one car coming down it, and shove my 28mm in their face. Ya, that'll work. Maybe it would for Bruce Gilden on a busy New York street, but for me in Little Town Ontario, not so much.

These experiences made me realize that I had to look at focal lengths from standard to short telephoto for street work. My wide angles and near wides really only get to come out and play on a nice Saturday in Hamilton or perhaps downtown Toronto. On streets with lots of people, my sight lines are short and I react to only what's around me. Perfect for a wide angle. On a street with only a few people, my sight lines can be an entire block. I often see an interesting scene that requires me to close quite a distance before even my short tele comes into play. There are days that I feel I should be out with a 400mm.

If I ever do get another lens, it'll probably be a 90mm (135mm eq.) and some days even that will probably be too short.